Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Views on Modernity, Capitalism, and Materialism

Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber on Modernity

Modernity entails the individual’s adaptation to society’s new form of life that differs from the past. Modernization is a transitional process from traditional to contemporary life. Early scholars such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber witnessed revolutionary transitions in Western culture, politics, and economic scenery. These three theorists spent a lot of their time examining the advantages and disadvantages of modernity in human life.

Marx was in defense and criticism of the changes in modernity. He was an outstanding supporter of modernization, arguing that it would bring human liberation (Royce, 2015). He demonstrated that modernity was a progressive force crucial to realizing the socialist future. Marx wanted the process of transformation to head in desirable directions. However, he also criticized modernity, claiming that modern social life brought about hazards and dilemmas. He also drew attention to the contemporary workers’ problems and the dehumanizing labor conditions. The application of Marx’s claim on current people’s life is helping them note they should embrace recent technological advancements. However, even if these technological advancements shape an individual’s life, they might have harmful consequences. Industries may have current machines necessary to produce goods and services for people, but they may cause a pollution effect on the environment.

Similar to Marx, Durkheim both embraced and criticized modernity and its influences. Durkheim loved the modern ideals of secularism, science, and democracy (Royce, 2015). He suggested that the old world was dead, and the new world to be embraced had been born. He used the sociological method to support industrialization, egalitarianism, and individualism in the community. It made him one of the founding fathers of modernity that exists today. However, he was unhappy due to no moral foundation governing modern economic-social life. He views that modernity can make producers unable to regulate the balance between production and consumption. He stated that these could quickly weaken social bonds, egoism, and widespread societal injustice. The rising modernization in society can lead to the weakening of family ties and communal associations. The egoism state makes people become isolated in their world. A classic example is that when individuals become rich, they develop an ego and separate from the poor people. It disrupts societal cohesion, as the poor and the rich cannot effectively cooperate.

The aspect of modernity to Weber meant the transition from the traditional worldview to a rational thinking process. He claimed that the rise of the modern industrial economy was crucial in breaking from the past (Royce, 2015). He perceived that contemporary society would increase rationality, whether capitalist or socialist. Through rationality, people must adapt to match the transitions in the ever-changing world. Weber was highly concerned about how people could embrace modernism, as there was no way of going back. Weber’s goal was not just for the people to understand modernity but also to know how they could respond to it. However, he was likewise a critic of modernism, as he felt it would undermine social dynamism and individual autonomy. Weber’s argument of rationality as a transformation process applies to the contemporary world. A capitalist in the modern world can learn to adapt to various market changes to match the competitors through rationality.

In conclusion, both Marx, Durkheim, and Max observed the benefits and disadvantages of modernity. Marx was concerned about the capitalist nature brought about by modernity; however, he saw modernization as a tool for achieving change. Marx was not impressed by how capitalist employers exploited their workers through overworking, poor working conditions, and low pay. Durkheim saw it was necessary to embrace modernity but worried that it would create isolation.

Karl Marx and Max Weber on Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic structure where individuals control production privately. In most instances, these private owners are more concerned with acquiring profits than satisfying the demands of their workers. For a long time, theorists have had differing opinions on capitalism. Karl Marx had an objection to capitalism, as he saw it oppressing people, while Max Weber championed it as a way of transforming society positively.

Marx objected to the perception of capitalism because of its inhumanity but remarkably embraced socialism. He argued that capitalists enjoyed powerful positions as the owners of production and thus used this opportunity to exploit the laborers (Royce, 2015). Even though capitalists pay the employees, they can overwork and control them inappropriately. He emphasized that capitalism lowered the possibility of a society’s integration through socialism. Marx argued that trade unions’ struggle to achieve reforms, such as demanding wage increases, attaining universal suffrage, and improving working conditions, might produce no results. Marx emphasizes workers may suffer the effects of low pay, but the critical problem is that capitalists deny them the opportunity to control their production. The best example to be drawn from the public is when the workers demand their rights through strikes, but their employers threaten to exploit them further. The employers cannot address their grievances; thus why Marx claimed that capitalism existed to exploit workers.

Weber had a contrasting argument with Marx on capitalism, as Weber was a great cheerleader of the system. He strongly defended the capitalist scheme against all the reactionary critics. Weber believed that specific fundamental characteristics were found in a capitalist economy that was missing in a socialist-planned economy (Royce, 2015). He found that economic activities are controlled by quantitative calculations expressed in monetary forms. Weber confirms that capitalism is not a corrupt system as it helps deliver goods to the population through production. It is a more organized way of ensuring service and goods delivery efficiency. Weber argued that capitalism encourages innovation and dynamism in society. The perfect example drawn from Weber’s argument in the modern world is that capitalists can use their power to create innovation. Through employment, innovative goods and services are produced for the community. Webers emphasizes that community is dynamic, and thus employers can also incorporate modern technology to ensure better service delivery.

Weber values capitalism more than socialism as he reinstates that there is no better alternative option to capitalism. He treasured individual competition and struggle than the sense of stability and security (Royce, 2015). Weber strongly defended the dynamism and efficiency of the market structure under capitalism. He argued that some countries, such as Germany, had become leading industrial powers through capitalism. Weber criticizes socialists for blaming some problems the employees experience are due to capitalism. He stated that the worker’s struggles were derived from ineradicable characteristics of modern economic life. The modern-day life example of Weber’s argument applies to Germany, as capitalism has made it possible for the nation to be still recognized as one of the most industrially developed nations in the world.

In conclusion, Marx and Weber had contrasting opinions on capitalism. Marx saw capitalism as a way for those in power to find the easiest way to oppress their workers. He continued that capitalism lowered the cohesion in society that could be attained by socialism. Weber supported capitalism as it was a system helping to efficiently deliver goods and services to the people. He argued that nations, such as Germany, had achieved significant development through capitalism.

Karl Marx’s Arguments on Materialism

Materialism entails the concept of people acquiring, owning, or consuming material goods. Theorists, such as Karl Marx, provided their historical understanding of materialism. Historical materialism seeks to explore the means of production of wealth within the community. Social class stratification that exists in many societies determines an individual own. According to Marx, the objects people desired to own were controlled by political, economic, and social factors.

Marx views materialism as a fundamental aspect of social existence. People’s survival requires growing crops, unearthing minerals, constructing buildings, and manufacturing goods (Royce, 2015). Marx emphasizes sociology and economics cannot be separated in the production process. He divided the population into two class systems: the majority class of owners and the minority class of producers. He stated the owners were the society’s dominant class that monopolized land, industries, and other means of production. The majority class of producers is the subordinate class that performs all work in society to produce goods. He argued that the owners enriched themselves with the efforts of the working class. The production of goods in a community plays a part in shaping humanity’s political, cultural, and legal characteristics. The cultural aspects stabilize production relations and promote the interests of the dominant class. No doubt exists that Marx’s logic on materialism perfectly fits modern society. Many laborers across the world struggle to produce goods meant for the community. However, the owners mainly benefit from this, as they gain vast sums of profit from the workers’ efforts.

In proposing the materialistic theory, Marx stated that politics, law, ideas, and beliefs determined the mode of production. He argued that production law and political reform had a crucial role in society’s economic activities (Royce, 2015). Marx added that the people’s moral ideals and religion could grow out of their property. These arguments are applicable as a country may formulate unfavorable political and law reforms, creating hostile conditions for the poor. These reforms may include heavy taxation by the government on the poor, thus reducing their salary. The low payment reduces the amount these individuals could use to increase their wealth standings. There exist laws in many nations that a loan defaulter may lose one’s property as the lenders may forcefully take one’s property.

Marx’s materialist perspective of materialism seeks to examine human history and develop what they desire to own. He argued that nations could improve society’s welfare by overturning society’s economic structure and material circumstances in people’s lives (Royce, 2015). It implies such problems as poverty, joblessness, and other social problems arise primarily because of the disordered economic systems within the world. He argued that unemployment was a common problem that nations could solve by abandoning capitalism in favor of socialism. Marx stated that socialism would help create a meaningful work-life for each individual and solve many crises. The application of this concept in modern society is nations creating policies that hinder capitalism and ensure fairness in the distribution of resources.

In conclusion, Karl Marx argued that society was stratified into a class of owners and producers. The owners controlled the production and had superb control over the producers. The dominant class in the community enriches themselves at the employees’ expense. Marx argued that one way of ensuring equity in the community was to restructure its economic pattern to attain socialism. He added that politics and laws within a nation had a role in affecting materialism.


Royce, E. C. (2015). Classical social theory and modern society: Marx, Durkheim, Weber. Rowman & Littlefield.

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"Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Views on Modernity, Capitalism, and Materialism." DemoEssays, 22 Dec. 2022, demoessays.com/karl-marx-emile-durkheim-and-max-weber-views-on-modernity-capitalism-and-materialism/.


DemoEssays. (2022) 'Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Views on Modernity, Capitalism, and Materialism'. 22 December.


DemoEssays. 2022. "Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Views on Modernity, Capitalism, and Materialism." December 22, 2022. https://demoessays.com/karl-marx-emile-durkheim-and-max-weber-views-on-modernity-capitalism-and-materialism/.

1. DemoEssays. "Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Views on Modernity, Capitalism, and Materialism." December 22, 2022. https://demoessays.com/karl-marx-emile-durkheim-and-max-weber-views-on-modernity-capitalism-and-materialism/.


DemoEssays. "Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Views on Modernity, Capitalism, and Materialism." December 22, 2022. https://demoessays.com/karl-marx-emile-durkheim-and-max-weber-views-on-modernity-capitalism-and-materialism/.